How American Airlines Made a 7-Year-Old’s Wish Come True

Aug 2, 2017

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The Points Guy has teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help dreams come true for children who are fighting life-threatening medical conditions. Since more than 2.8 billion airline miles are needed to cover travel for every child’s wish this year alone, our help is needed more than ever.

We’re sharing the stories of how four carriers — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines — are helping Make-A-Wish to grant travel wishes. We’re also asking you to donate your miles — as many as you can — to help. Please visit the Make-A-Wish website, where you can donate points and miles from American, United, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue. And for every 5,000 miles you donate, you’ll get one entry into our contest, where you can win one of five one-on-one points and miles consultations with TPG himself.

Today, we’re highlighting a time where American Airlines helped one little boy’s wish to be an AA pilot come true.

William, who was seven at the time, has a congenital heart defect and was born without a right heart ventricle, essentially giving him half of a working heart. Since his diagnosis, he’s had three surgeries to improve his quality of life, but none of them have been able to fix his heart completely. William had always dreamed of flying an American Airlines plane and when Make-A-Wish heard of his wish to become a pilot, the organization worked quickly to make it happen. With AA’s help, the two companies were able to produce a three-day event he would never forget.

The wish started with William and his family flying from their home in Chicago to the American Airlines headquarters in Dallas/Fort Worth in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Captain Jim Palmersheim was the mastermind behind granting William’s wish and made sure his entire three-day career went smoothly — and realistically. First, William received an official AA pilot’s uniform — not a costume, but a real uniform that required his measurements and included a hat, bag and aviator sunglasses.

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Once the family arrived at AA’s headquarters, a line of pilots saluted William as he began his three-day pilot gig. They even followed AA’s tradition of ringing a bell whenever the airline welcomes a new pilot. William was then immediately promoted to chief pilot and given his own office, complete with photos of his family on the walls.

The following day, hands-on pilot training started. William made a stop at Human Resources before taking a lesson in ground school, a trip to the in-flight simulator, a check ride and capping off the day with emergency training, where he helped put out a fire. On his final day of being a pilot, William was escorted to Air Traffic Control, where he got to view DFW from above. He then visited an AA hangar for a 787 inspection, was named honorary fire chief, and ended the day by having a pizza party with the firefighters.

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Palmersheim, who was a pilot and now works as part of AA’s community relations team, helped to plan William’s trip and says those three days were the coolest thing he’s been a part of during his 26 years at American Airlines. “I think about William every day,” he said. “When you have an opportunity to grant someone’s wish, you end up learning a lot about yourself. That was a great gift that I never expected.”

In order to make more dreams like this come true, Make-A-Wish needs more points and miles. Of the 15,200 wishes the organization granted last year, 77% required some form of travel, like flying William and his family from Chicago to Dallas. You can do your part to help grant wishes like this by donating your American AAdvantage miles, DeltaSkyMiles, United MileagePlus miles, Southwest Rapid Rewards points or JetBlue TrueBlue points to the organization.

Once you’ve donated, send an email to with a screenshot of how many miles you’ve given to be entered to win one of five special one-on-one consultations with The Points Guy in New York City, where you’ll learn how to replenish the points and miles you’ve just donated. For every 5,000 miles you donate (regardless of from which program) you’ll get one entry into the contest, so the more you donate, the more chances you’ll have to win. You can view the official TPG sweepstakes rules here for more details. Donating can also help to keep the miles in your account from expiring, so if you have 50,000 miles that are getting close to the expiration date, donating any amount will keep them all active.

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories of how Make-A-Wish has teamed up to make kids’ wishes come true all month long as we continue to celebrate how Make-A-Wish partners with airlines.

All images courtesy of Mary Melka Photography via Make-A-Wish.

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